Unheralded public works garners two awards
Mike Dennison (right) and Kevin Tate hold up their awards after being recognized statewide for their efforts in the public works department. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
Firefighters and police officers are often recognized for their line of work with certificates, plaques and awards. Perhaps it’s time public works employees received an accolade or two.
Two South Jordan City employees were recognized by the American Public Works Association Utah Chapter for their work. Mike Dennison was named the Storm Water Inspector of the Year, and Kevin Tate received the G. Mark Morrison Public Works Employee.
“We found out the same day, and it was the same reaction (surprise),” Dennison said. “It was cool.”
“It makes me feel appreciated,” Tate said. “Sometimes our work goes unnoticed in public works, so it’s good to be recognized.”
The APWA sponsors an awards program to recognize those “who are truly making a difference in our communities in the public works field,” said Marv Allen, who represents the APWA Utah Chapter.
Of the three individual awards the APWA gives out, Allen said two of them went to South Jordan employees.
“The residents of the city are really the ones that have benefited from [them] being here,” said Public Works Director Jason Rasmussen.
Dennison has been in the storm drain division for almost eight years, saying he “stumbled into this position.”
With the many state and federal requirements the city is obligated to follow, Rasmussen said Dennison is “absolutely amazing” in a position that requires so much.
In the last 12 months, Rasmussen said Dennison has performed more than 1,400 on-site inspections and 500 follow-up inspections where he ensures contractors don’t allow garbage waste, sediment and dirt into the water system.
“Mike really possesses the professionalism and tact and at times assertiveness required that gets contractors to comply with requirements so that the city doesn’t get fined and in trouble with the state,” Rasmussen said.
He added due to Dennison’s work with their storm water permit and inspection program, the city carries a strong reputation throughout the state.
Rasmussen joked that he’s known Tate, whose been with the city 17 years, longer than his own kids.
“When we first started out, there was something about Kevin that was special as far as dedication and his commitment to the job,” Rasmussen said. “That’s carried through for a long time.”
Tate’s longevity has led to an accumulation of knowledge, whether it’s about street maintenance, snow plowing, work zone safety or training new employees.
“He’s an expert in many areas,” Rasmussen said.
That expertise earned him his nickname around the department: the godfather. Tate is the person other employees come to when they’re in a pinch.
“It’s a good thing,” Tate said of the distinctive nickname. “Sometimes you can be frustrated with it, but you got to remember that’s a good thing; that’s a compliment. They’re coming to you because you know or if you don’t know, you’re going to help them figure it out.”
Calls for assistance aren’t limited to South Jordan, either. Rasmussen said public works agencies around the valley call seeking advice with Tate providing his knowledge.
“All of us are really lucky to have him here working for the city,” Rasmussen said.
Councilman Patrick Harris offered a special thank you to the two employees and the entire public works department.
“Oftentimes we give the police and the fire a lot of credit, and credit well-deserved, but there's also other departments that do things to keep our city running the way it does: keep it clean, keep it efficient, keep our water flowing where it needs to go,” Harris said.
It’s what they enjoy doing, even if it is an non-glorified department.
“We realized that when we took the job,” Dennison said. “We just like what we do.”